They haven’t happened often enough this season, but Tuesday was a good day for the Marlins.
Well, about as good as it’s been in a while.
Brad Hand tossed a career-high eight innings of two-run ball, Christian Yelich produced his 100th career RBI in his return from the disabled list, Dee Gordon stole four bases, and the team matched a season-high with five doubles in a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, putting an end to a four-game losing skid.
Even better: the Marlins found out it won’t be long before their power-hitting, All-Star right fielder is back.
Giancarlo Stanton, who underwent surgery to repair a left wrist fracture on June 28, said Tuesday he’s feeling better and is “about a-week-and-a-half [away]” from a return.
The likely return date: when the Marlins open their next homestand on Sept. 4 against the division-leading New York Mets.
The Marlins starting outfield of Stanton, center fielder Marcell Ozuna, and the Gold Glove-winning left fielder Yelich, tabbed the best in baseball by ESPN this winter, has only made 44 starts together in 2015.
“It will be a welcome addition to have him back in the lineup,” manager Dan Jennings said of Stanton. “I know he’s been progressing in a good way. I had a good visit with him Monday. He told me he’s feeling stronger and doesn’t feel it when he turns his wrist. So that’s a good sign.
“If we can get these guys together and have a month of health, maybe we can be a spoiler in some ways.”
Stanton, who was leading baseball with 27 homers and 65 RBI when he injured his wrist swinging a bat, doesn’t expect to play in any minor league rehab games when he’s finally cleared. He said he can get his timing back in the batting cages.
Stanton, who was initially expected to be back four to six weeks after surgery but has been delayed by pain in the wrist, said he’s looking forward to getting “a good 20, 25 games in together” with Ozuna and Yelich to finish the season.
Yelich came off the disabled list Tuesday after the Marlins sent their seventh starting pitcher this season, rookie Kendry Flores, to the disabled list. Left-hander Chris Narveson will become the 13th different Marlins pitcher to start a game on Wednesday.
Jennings said Flores still has to have his an MRI on his throwing shoulder.
Staff ace Jose Fernandez, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 8 with a right biceps strain, will throw a bullpen session Thursday at Marlins Park. Fernandez may simply need to throw in a simulated game before he's cleared to return from the disabled list.
“There’s a case with him we could run him to Jupiter and get him in,” Jennings said. “But he may accomplish the same thing in a [simulation] game. Just depends on when he’s ready to amp it that way. But he feels great right now, real good.”
Meanwhile on Tuesday, the story on the field was Hand. After giving up a run in the first inning, he kept the Pirates (75-49) in check, scattering nine hits over the next seven-plus frames before being pulled with two on and nobody out in the ninth.
Hand, once thought of as an insurance policy and long reliever at best, has won three of his last four decisions to improve to 4-3 on the season. A night after the Marlins as a team walked nine, Hand pitched eight-plus without giving up a walk and dropped his ERA to 4.23 on the season.
Scratch out the six-run loss to the Cardinals on Aug. 15 and he’s given up four earned runs over in 21 innings in those three wins. When Hand left in the ninth inning Tuesday, the Marlins faithful gave him a standing ovation.
“It's very cool to see the fans do that,” said Hand, who is now 9-21 in his career as a Marlin. “I feel really confident in myself and I think I can start here. And I'm just trying to put together a few good starts to end the season."
▪ The Marlins are expecting right-hander Jarred Cosart, who has made just eight big league starts this season while battling vertigo, to be back soon. He's scheduled to throw 65 to 70 pitches for Single A Jupiter on Thursday.
▪ Rookie Jose Urena (bruised left knee) will throw a bullpen Wednesday and then live batting practice on Saturday.
▪ Wednesday: Marlins LHP Chris Narveson (1-0, 3.86) vs. Pirates LHP Jeff Locke (6-8, 4.56), 7:10 p.m.
▪ Thursday: Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino (2-1, 3.77) vs. Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole (14-7, 2.49), 7:10 p.m.